Sunday, August 7, 2016

Teacher Abraham? Why is your name Egyptian?

What a week! It is a beautiful rainy day here in the Democratic Republic of Laos, and what a pleasure it is to be writing you all today. I miss you guys :) This was my first week teaching English full-time, getting down to work, and all that jazz - what a roller coaster! So much fun! 

What’s up Skyline!
The Work: 
Here in Lao every day we teach English to government officials. We plan our days according to the English classes we will be teaching. For example, on Monday, I teach a beginner class to about 30 students at the Mohosot Hospital from 12-1 pm. I teach from a book that DIC (Deseret International Charities) supplies and the students follow along. I then have a lunch break and do some office work/more preparation for the next English class at 4:30-6 pm at a nearby college campus teaching the Department of Public Health officials English. It is so much fun teaching ESL (English as a second language) students. We have a great time! 

Teaching English

All teaching takes is a lot of energy and a lot of acting out (in my opinion). It is so important to be charismatic while teaching or else you will lose your classes' attention. Elder Nate Morley (another Lao elder) said it best: "Acting is arguably the best way to teach." It has been so much fun tag teaching with John Nelson this week. He is leaving on Monday, and we are sure going to miss him. Love you man. This week, we were just looking at each other random times while talking with members or teaching students and just thinking to ourselves, "Dude... we are in a communist country, teaching English, and speaking Laotian to people, and they actually understand us... and we are companions along with 5 other people in the entire country. And to think just a couple years ago, we were graduating high school together.... woah!" Hahahahaha way cool! I am so glad I had a week to be John's companion. What a blessing. Peace out buddy - have fun back home! I will be taking over John's students and his schedule when he leaves. 

One of John’s last classes

BUT THIS DOES NOT MEAN WE DO NOT DO MISSIONARY WORK. The members here are awesome, and they bring their friends. This last week we had 5 baptisms here in Laos. All from referrals. Things are looking good for tomorrow, and we have another 2 baptisms planned :) The Lord blesses those who work hard. Big props to the members for working hard!! Woohooooo Baptism!

The Bottom Line: 
Wherever you are in the world, consistent reading of the scriptures is spiritual food you need every day. Here in Lao, I don't go out on the streets asking people to go to church. In fact, I can't even talk about religion really at all. I am an English teacher..... some people have asked me - "How do you still feel like a missionary?" The answer is this - we are all missionaries as we show the light of Christ to other people. You may think that is an overused polite way of saying, "We are all special, and everyone has the light of Christ blah blah blah." But the bottom line is that as we read our scriptures daily and pray throughout the day for the Spirit to be with us, Heavenly Father blesses us with the ability to recognize spiritual promptings and to understand different channels of missionary service. 

The Culture: 
1. Something I have noticed here in Laos that is different from Thailand is that everything seems to be made of wood... idk. 

2. Delicious bread here (Laos used to be occupied by the French many many years ago... hence the amazing baguettes).

3. The members of the Second Branch in Laos wake up around 5:30 a.m. and get ready to come to church two hours away. They all come in a van together from their homes north of Vientiane. They come to church every week EARLY, and they stay after to make food for everyone. They are amazing. I am loving the members here in Vientiane. Both branches have such a great vibe to them. 

4. Oh yeah... Lao is communist. I don't know if I mentioned that. So that is different.....

5. I love Lao!  

Fish tacos

The Funnies: 
1. You may be confused at the title of this post. I put it there because as I was introducing myself to the students this week in my different classes, they kept trying to say my name "Abraham," and they were so confused. They said, "Teacher.... why is your name not American? Like John... John is an American name... Abraham is like you are from Egypt or something?" "Did your parents name you after your ancestors?" I was like... "No, not really"... and they were so confused why I had this middle-eastern name in America. Hahahaha, it was quite adorable. (See 'Mom Comment' below - Abraham cannot explain his name comes from religious origins.)

2. The English students gave me a Lao name this week. It is spelled in English, but the name is "Am." It is shorter hahahah. They call me Teacher Am. Fun stuff! 

3. John has been going hard with serving everyone this week. He came downstairs one day and said, "You boys better be on your guard - the Service Fairy is back!" Hahahahahaha.

The Spiritual Thought
As Thomas S. Monson so beautifully declared at our last general conference: "Keep the Commandments. In this there is wisdom, in this there is peace." I support that 100%. Keep the commandments. I have seen people who do and who do not... and true happiness comes from keeping the basics. Nothing more to be said. 

LOVE YOU ALL. Thank you for your prayers. Keep praying please! 

Love the Lord and Laugh, 
เอ็ลเดอร์ สมีธ-ดริกส์

Elder Smith-Driggs  

Mom Comment: Many people have asked me about what Abraham is doing in Laos.  I'm going to try to summarize it here, and Abraham can correct me next week if I am wrong;) First, we call it "Laos" in the U.S., and they call it "Lao" in their country.  You will see both names used interchangeably in this blog. As I understand it, all six missionaries in Lao teach English and have been trained to do so.  They have work visas and volunteer for Deseret International Charities Laos (DIC).  They call each other by their first names and wear white name tags representing DIC. They work with DIC as it tries to serve the Laotian people and government because The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not officially recognized in Lao. The missionaries are not allowed to call each other "Elder" or reference the Church in public.  They are not allowed to tell their students that they are LDS missionaries. They are in Lao to help DIC and to set a good example of being Christians.  Currently, the missionaries teach English to Laotian government officials, hospital staff, deaf students, and other Laotian agencies Monday through Friday all over Vientiane, the Laotian capital. The missionaries are allowed to teach investigators on Sundays at the church building when an investigator accompanies a member. The members and investigators in Lao are truly amazing! 

Mom Comment 2:  Abraham said he sent more pictures from Lao, but they didn't come through:(  So here are a few pictures from the last two months in Thailand that were not in blog posts.

Sister Johnson! Such a great woman:)

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